Lance Corporal Percy William Yates

Percy’s birth was registered in the 3rd Quarter of 1894 in Wilton, Birth Record Index for Wiltshire Volume 5a Page 178a refers.

In 1891 before Percy’s birth the Census record for the family shows them living in Steeple Langford.  Recorded in the family group are Father Frederick Robert Yates (b circa 1865 Wyle bapt 3 Jun 1865 d 1940) a Carter/Farmer, Mother Annie Bessie Yates (nee Curtis) (b 1862 Marhhull Dorset d 1936 Salisbury) (They were married on 26 Sep 1885) with children Mabel J Yates born 1887 in what looks like Sutton Veney and John E Yates born 1890 in Steeple Langford.

I can find no 1901 Census record for the family.

The 1911 Census shows the family in Great Bathampton, a farm in Steeple Langford, Wiltshire.  Recorded on this census are

Frederick Robert Yates as a Carter/Farmer and mother Annie Bessie Yates and children:

  • John Yates (b 1891 Steeple Langford) a Carter/Farmer
  • Edwin Yates (b 1892 Steeple Langford) a Grocer
  • Percy Yates (b 1894 Fisherton) Carter/Farmer
  • Harry Yates (b 1897 Winterbourne Stoke) Carter/Farmer
  • Cyril Yates     (b 1902 Shrewton)
  • Earnest Yates (b 1904 Shrewton)

This Census states that by 1911 Frederick and Bessie had had 10 children of whom  3 had sadly died. 

Percy’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation shows that in 1918 Percy’s parents, Frederick and Bessie were living in 2 Queen Street, Tilshead.

Service Record

Service Number 28052 Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).

Sadly, no service record exists for Percy so I will make some assumptions with respect to his service history.

His Medal Index Roll entry shows he served with 2/7th Battalion RWR and his Commonwealth War Graves Citation the 14th (Service) Battalion RWR. 

He is not awarded the 1914/15 Star, so I am assuming he joined up in 1915/16 and was subsequently posted to 2/7th Battalion RWR (which was part of 182nd Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division).

In February and early March 1916, the Division moved to Salisbury Plain. King George V inspected the Division at Bulford on 5 May 1916.

The 61st Division was warned in May 1916 that it would go on overseas service and entrainment began on the 21st. By 28th May the Division, less the Ammunition Column (which was still at Le Havre), had concentrated in the area of Merville – Gonnehem – Busnes – Thiennes. The Division then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements (Pse note that only a detailed study of the 2/7th Battalion War Diary can confirm their level of involvement in these actions).

1916

The Attack at Fromelles

The first major action in which the Division was engaged turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. An attack was made on 19 July 1916 at Fromelles, a subsidiary action to the much larger battle taking place further south on the Somme. The Division suffered very heavy casualties for no significant gain and no enemy reserves were diverted from the Somme. Such was the damage to the Division and its reputation that it was not used again other than for holding trench lines until 1917.

1917

The Operations on the Ancre

The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line

The 61st was one of the Divisions employed in the cautious pursuit of the enemy, when the Germans carried out a deep withdrawal from the area of the Somme to formidable pre-prepared positions that the British called the Hindenburg Line, in March 1917. On 17 March, it captured Chaulnes and Bapaume.

The Battle of Langemarck 916-18 August 1917)

In late August and early September, the Division was involved in the efforts to push the line forward at positions around Schuler Farm and Aisne Farm near Kerselaar.

In late November 1917, the British Third Army made a highly successful attack, using massed tanks for the first time, near Cambrai. 61st Division was initially held in reserve and was still in the area when the enemy made a determined counterattack on 30 November. The Division was ordered up to reinforce the units under attack in the area of La Vacquerie and for some days was involved in a hard fight to stem the enemy attack.

1918

The Battle of St Quentin~

The Actions at the Somme Crossings~

On 21 March 1918, the enemy launched what was intended to be a decisive offensive, attacking the British Fifth and Third Armies on the Somme in overwhelming strength. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic but ultimately successful withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days. In the initial clash, the South Midland faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.

  • Phases of the Battles of the Lys
    • The Battle of Estaires
    • The Battle of Hazebrouck
    • The Battle of Bethune

By the time it was relieved after fighting all the way back to the very gates of Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was most exhausted. The remnants were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line on the La Bassee Canal near Bethune. Unfortunately, it was near where the Germans launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918.

At some stage, and for reasons unknown, Percy was transferred from the 2/7th Battalion to 14th (Service) Battalion RWR.  My best guess is that this transfer took place sometime in early 1918 but I cannot be certain.  It is possible he was re-assigned to the 14th Battalion when it returned to France from Italy in April 1918.  The 14th Battalion RWR were part of the 13th Infantry Brigade within the 5th Division.

13th Infantry Brigade Order of Battle

  • 2nd Bn, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers
  • 1st Bn, the Royal West Kent Regt
  • 14th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt    
  • 15th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt    

Percy is reported to have been killed in action on the 23rd May 1918.  I have attached below the 14th Battalion War Diary for the month of May 1918.  The battalion was operating in the area of the Nieppe Forest not far from where Percy was buried in the Tannay British CWGC Cemetery.

On the 23rd May the war diary records bluntly ‘8 men become casualties’.  This is the day Percy is recorded as being killed, possibly as a consequence of an artillery or gas attack

Register of Soldiers Effects entry for Percy

Medal Index Register entry for Percy

Percy is buried near to where he fell at TANNAY BRITISH CEMETERY, THIENNES

Plot 2. Row E. Grave 12.

Personal Inscription

NOT GONE FROM MEMORY NOR FROM LOVE BUT GONE TO OUR FATHER’S HOME ABOVE

Medal index Card

War Medal 
Victory Medal

      

George Clegg

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